Despite menopause affecting around 51% of the population, many within this group reported a general lack of awareness or understanding of menopause, even amongst their women colleagues . According to Professor Jo Brewis, co-author of the 2017 Government Report on Menopause, ‘menopausal women are the fastest growing workforce demographic’, yet as you’ll come to understand this group is vastly under supported within the workplace.
What is menopause?
Menopause is a natural part of ageing, usually occurring between the ages of 45 and 55, as a woman's oestrogen levels begin to decline. The onset and symptoms of menopause differs, with some younger women reporting early onset before 40 and some trans men and non-binary people experiencing menopausal symptoms .
Symptoms range from sleep disorder, hot flashes and heart palpitations to increased risk of Alzheimer’s, anxiety, heart disease and osteoporosis. Without the proper support and understanding from employers, continuing to work through this transition can be a truly challenging time for women. This puts employers at risk of losing a highly skilled workforce if they are not able to provide the right environment for them, while steps are being taken to create a genuine culture where women are supported in the workplace there is much work still to be done.
What menopausal women experience in the workplace
A 2019 survey by Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that 59% of working menopausal women - between the ages of 45 and 55 - were negatively affected at work  due to difficulty managing symptoms and the silence surrounding menopause in the workplace. Nearly 30% of the women surveyed said they had taken sick leave to manage their symptoms, with only a quarter of them feeling comfortable enough to tell their manager the real reason for their absence , 32% citing that upper management was unsupportive of their experience.
In response to the staggering findings above, The Women and Equalities Committee launched an inquiry culminating in the 2022 Menopause and the Workplace report. The report found that the specific impact of menopause on women in the workplace could be divided into three clear categories: problematic symptoms; lack of support and discrimination; and loss of income or reduced work.
Ways to support employees
Openness, awareness and training
Practical adjustments to the awareness and training focusing on menopause can help to provide support for those suffering from difficult symptoms. Adjusting internal policies addressing menopause, providing education in the workplace and creating a supportive environment are all low cost and low resource ways to support employees. Talking openly about menopause within an organisation is often the first step , this can be done during the onboarding and induction process to ensure it is clear that menopause is seen as a health issue which the organisation wants to help with.
Training should be provided for line managers covering the nature of menopausal symptoms and how the work environment might impact on employees symptoms, and how to handle conversations in a fair and sensitive manner as well as how to identify and regularly review necessary support .
Other suggestions include destigmatising menopause in the workplace by appointing a ‘menopause champion’ to facilitate conversations and provide information and virtual or face-to-face menopause cafes to provide a judgement free space in which to share thoughts and feelings on the employees experience while connecting with others who can empathise.
Various employers around the UK have demonstrated their commitment to creating an inclusive working environment through independent assessment by the Menopause Friendly Accreditation qualified panel of judges. Each organisation receives a badge to display once they have passed assessment to show that they are offering their employees the right support through menopause.
Specific policies and guidance
Creating and incorporating guidance about menopause into existing policies can be helpful to both employees and employers  and demonstrate the organisation's commitment to taking the issue seriously, addressing any underlying stigmas associated with it while highlighting the support available. Should this not be possible, a stand-alone policy highlighting the specific issues associated with menopause should be created and implemented . The CIPD advises that a one-size-fits-all approach in developing policies and guidance isn’t advisable and that a tailored or “cafeteria approach” may be necessary to ensure every experience is supported.
Once these policies have been agreed they should be clearly communicated to all employees on a regular basis to ensure everyone is aware of the support on offer and the continuation of any stigma attached to menopausal symptoms do not remain within the working environment .
Based on the way most workplaces structure sick leave, multiple short-term absences can trigger performance reviews or disciplinary actions which can be particularly difficult for those suffering from the symptoms of menopause and taking sick days without additional information as to the cause of their symptoms . To combat this issue organisations are advised to implement specific menopause-related sick leave and flexible working policies to provide additional support for employees and remove any concern of discrimination.
Many workplaces have begun to implement the following menopause-friendly leave options. Business in the Community suggested the option to record menopause-related sickness as an ongoing issue rather than individual absences , while Staffordshire University suggested specific ‘menopause leave’ as additional support . Other businesses, such an online retailer ASOS, offer additional paid leave for “life events” which can be used by those experiencing menopausal symptoms .
Extending the offer of menopause focused sick leave can help lessen the pressure those suffering from adverse symptoms may feel to disclose their symptoms to management, empowering them to remain employed while managing difficult life changes.
Offering all employees the right to request a flexible working arrangement has clear benefits, from better mental health and wellbeing to a general improvement in recruitment - flexible working is a benefit to all employees .
Moving away from the traditional view of what a typical working day should look like empowers employees with greater autonomy when it comes to how, where and why they work. Shifting to an output-focused way of working - one rooted in outcomes rather than hours spent online, unlocks greater freedom and flexibility for not only those managing menopausal symptoms but all employees . Defining what a hybrid work environment looks like will undoubtedly be different for every business and every employee but basing the process on open communication and feedback will serve both businesses and employees well.
Providing additional support
Prioritising women’s health by including specific benefits in healthcare provisions can help employees to feel supported and encouraged to prioritise their health. The Healix women’s health pathway facilitates confidential access to specialists in women’s health, including gynaecologists, to guide women throughout their journey and ensure they have personalised advice and guidance to manage their symptoms in a positive way.
One key benefit offered across all Healix Healthcare Trusts is access to Dr Morton - the medical helpline which offers a remote telephone-based service where women are able to access telephone consultations with gynaecologists for any personal health concern. These consultations can cover a range of topics from fertility, pregnancy, hormone health (including period problems), sexual health, and is most often used for women with menopause symptoms. While services such as these are most often excluded from typical PMI offerings, Healix Health provides additional value to members who are able to access support through a set number of telephonic consultations as well as capped cover on any diagnostic tests ordered by the gynaecologist. When assisting with menopause, the service offers advice and guidance, and also medical treatment with prescriptions for hormone replacement therapy where required.
By introducing tailored benefits and innovative ways of promoting engagement with them, employers can offer valuable support to women and promote awareness within the wider workplace too. Creating a culture where women’s health issues are recognised and addressed can reduce sickness absence, while also encouraging women to stay in the workforce in the time at which their career is at its peak, thus providing an incredible source of talent for employers.
Unison.or.uk, Menopause the menopause is a workplace issue: guidance and model policy, https://www.unison.org.uk/content/uploads/2019/10/25831.pdf
CIPD.org, Menopause at Work, https://www.cipd.org/uk/about/press-releases/menopause-at-work/
House of Commons, Women and Equalities Committee oral evidence: Menopause and the workplace, HC 602, https://committees.parliament.uk/oralevidence/9839/html/
Committees.parliament.uk, Acacs response: Menopause and the workplace, https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/39254/html/
Committees.parliament.uk, Written evidence from Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/39197/html/
Committees.parliament.uk, Written evidence from UNISON, https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/38804/html/
Committees.parliament.uk, Written evidence from Business in the Community, https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/39396/html/
Committees.parliament.uk, Written evidence from Staffordshire University, https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/39396/html/
Asosplc.com, ASOS launches new policies to provide support for employees going through important health related life events, https://www.asosplc.com/news/asos-launches-new-policies-provide-support-employees-going-through-important-health-related-life-events/
The Media Leader, The menopause is another reason women want flexible working, https://the-media-leader.com/the-menopause-is-another-reason-women-want-flexible-working/
While the statistics and findings above refer to women throughout, the information may also be relevant to transgender, non-binary and intersex people who do not identify as women.